Text by Eliza A. '12
After spending almost two weeks traveling throughout Israel, I find myself confused on many levels. I have so many questions I wish I could find answers to, and I have so many emotions all of which seem to be in conflict with each other. In reflecting today with the group on our experiences in the West Bank and hearing from a representative from the American Jewish Committee, I wish I knew how I felt. When reflecting on the experiences I have had here it is almost impossible to try and separate out all the political voices both here and in the international community; however, when I think about my Palestinian host mother, I find it easy to separate all this noise out.
I saw my host mother as the Palestinian version of my grandmother, who I call Nanny. The similarities between the two are almost endless and at times just funny. To start with, I don't think there were five minutes that went by during my home stay where my host mother did not offer me some type of food. She was always cooking something warm and delicious and even between meals was offering me lots of snacks, which my Jewish Nanny would refer to as nosh. During meals, my host mom refused to sit down until everyone had everything they could possibly need, a scene that is mirrored during meals at my Nanny's house. One of the more funny similarities between the two is their abundant collections of free hotel mini shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles. Something so simple and silly, yet something for me that made me feel a connection between the two.
On the more emotional side, my host mother made me feel at home from the moment I walked in the door. She always checked on me to see if I needed anything, told me over and over that I could take anything I needed without asking, and really did everything to make me feel comfortable. For me, this was the greatest part of my home stay experience, the warmth and real love I felt from my host mother. She took away all the fears and anxieties I had and allowed me to fully enjoy my experience. Throughout my life, my Nanny has given me so much unconditional love, comfort, and support that I have always been grateful for, and my host mother in Ramallah provided all of that for me.
When I reflect on the experiences of this trip, the criticisms of it, and the larger conflicts within this region, I have found it really easy to lose sight of the human element in all of this. When I think about my host mother and the way she treated me with love and warmth despite my personal religion and political views, I find it a little bit easier to see the human side and I am incredibly grateful and thankful for that. I am more appreciative that I feel I am coming away from this experience with more of a human connection absent of all politics.